Saturday, January 15
Knee deep in their “Ski Tour” The Infamous Stringdusters parked themselves in Fort Collins for a pair of shows far away from any panic-inducing gondolas. They brought along The Deadly Gentlemen who initially gained attention as the band with David Grisman’s progeny on bass. However, Sam Grisman has recently departed the group passing his spot on to Adam Chaffins. Unfortunately due to my tardiness and a ridiculous line I only just entered, as they were finishing.
As I walked inside I was greeted by a six foot chain link fence separating the bar area from the rest of the Aggie. I had heard some distant rumors, but little could prepare me for what I witnessed. Due to some overzealous police work in Fort Collins and pressure from the city this was the answer to a question I can’t fathom. Regardless the end result was mayhem for this sold-out show. Fans were ass to elbow in the
‘Cage’ as it affectionately came to be called. Music fans would slam drinks before bouncing to the floor. So I’m not sure what this solves, but I digress. The Infamous Stringdusters opened with a sublime “Blockies.”
Set 1: Blockies, The Hitchhiker, Tennessee Side Of Things, Clinch Mountain Backstep, Colorado, Time To Part, True Life Blues, Rivers Run Cold, Summercamp> Walking On The Moon, Long And Lonesome Day> Gettin’ Down The Road
Set 2: You Can’t Stop The Changes, Black Rock, Get It While You Can, The Place That I Call Home, Steam Powered Aereo Plane, Angeline The Baker, Like I Do, 17 Cents, Machines, All The Same, High Country Funk, Three Days In July, I Know You Rider, Let It Go, Given More Time
Encore: Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
The Infamous Stringdusters are a one-stop bluegrass shop and on Friday they were open for business. They have it all, from their striking harmonies to their irreproachable instrumentation. This band’s dance-inducing melodies are enough to warm the heart of any string fan. Their first set was loaded with highlights including a rendition of Ralph Stanley’s “Clinch Mountain Backstep” that showcased some flawless fiddle work from Jeremy Garrett. Their love and respect for my adopted state was obvious in their original, “Colorado”. Chris Pandolfi demanded the crowd’s attention on “Time To Part” through unadulterated banjo shredding. The Infamous Stringdusters are as smooth as they are precise. Their playfully sweet homage to childhood, “Summercamp” into the Police’s “Walking On The Moon” was a nice touch. The set-closing “Long And Lonesome Day” into “Gettin’ On Down The Road” was just stellar. The combination of Garrett’s fiddle and Hall’s imposing vocals is something to behold.
They took a short set break as the masses squeezed by the fence line for fresh air. Honestly though if they hadn’t installed the fence chances are the Dusters would not have been able to play two nights at the Aggie. So by the second set I had made peace. The Infamous Stringdusters eased into set two with “You Can’t Stop The Changes” like a slice of red velvet cake. Their focus on harmonies is always a key element, but here they were especially on fire vocally. Garrett and Hall traded the spotlight on “Black Rock.” Travis Book has incredible timing on his instrument; at times he would literally startle the audience when he would thunder slap the bass. Their strangely familiar “Get It While You Can” went into the bright but nostalgic road song “The Place That I Call Home.”
“We’re gonna do a song for all the dreamers out there.” – Travis
Fans were then treated to a beautiful version of John Hartford’s “Steam Powered Aereo Plane.” The instrumental “Angeline The Baker” was absolutely huge, but “Like I Do” was a breather. Pandolfi got dirty on “17 Cents” creating some great back and forth between he and Falco on guitar. The band again went for the more composed jam with the instrumental, “Machines.” Listening to this song is admitting that anything is possible. The Dusters went into a nice grass version of The Grateful Dead’s “I Know You Rider” before showing their spiritual side with “Let It Go.” They closed the second set with “Given More Time,” which had me wishing they were given some more time… The boys closed with a Falco sung rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” Despite the confined spaces and the prodigious crowd, the show went off as planned. A few drunks got the boot, and there was an air of rowdiness at times, but that’s the same at every sold out Aggie show. The next night would give the hardcore fans a little more space as the Ski Tour rolled on.
Sunday, January 16
As far as the audience is concerned, if night one was a raging bull night two was a very friendly squirrel. Seriously the room was maybe half full, with only the hardcore DustHeads making it to the Aggie on a Sunday night.
I arrived early having missed The Deadly Gentlemen on the first go around. I did not want to make the same mistake twice. This group has intrigued me since hearing a few of their early recordings online. They have a distinctly original sound that seems to be so well steeped in all the string music that came before. They went on early just after 8 PM. Their set was just under an hour, and the early arrivers were treated to a nice sampling of what the Gentlemen do. The lead guitarist Stash (a nickname based on his last name Stanislaw) alternates between a straightforward bluegrass delivery to screaming vocals. Greg Lizst is perhaps the most renowned member of the group having toured with Crooked Still and played with Springstein’s live band during his Seeger Sessions Tour. The newest member Adam Chaffins has honeyed vocals that are a total juxtaposition to his slaphappy bass style. Their show was certainly worth making the trip early. The highlight was tight version of the Rolling Stones’ “Let It Bleed.” If The Deadly Gentlemen are in your town go see them live.
The Infamous Stringdusters came to the stage with a high-speed “Ain’t No Way Of Knowing” into a spot on version of Earl Scruggs’ “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.”
Set 1: Ain’t No Way Of Knowing> Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Light And Love, One More Bridge, When Silence Is The Only Sound> Night On The River> Well, Well, Middle Fork, Fork In The Road, Sunny Side Of The Mountain*, Old Joe Clark*
Set 2: Road to Boulder, Jack-A-Roe, Once You’re Gone, I’ll Get Away, Heady Festy> In God’s Country, Get On With It, 3×5, Home of the Red Fox, Try Try Try, Paypal Jamgrass, Fire, Cripple Creek, Echoes of Goodbye, Moon Man
Encore: He’s Gone, Head Over Heels In Love With You
“We got a little more elbow room tonight… and now we’re gonna play a lot of music.” – Travis
“Light And Love” sounded like it could have been written by Bill Nershi, but the refrain was all Duster harmony. “When Silence Is The Only Sound” into “Night On The River” into “Well, Well” made up the meat of the first set. This whole sequence of songs built upon each other creating a rich musical tapestry for the listeners. Their ability to crisply segue between songs also demonstrates how this band has truly blossomed since their formation in 2007. “Fork In The Road” was another highlight with some amazing give and take again between Falco and Pandolfi. Eventually, Garrett jumped in to steal the solo. I will just say that I may or may not have told Chris Pandolfi he was, “…an attractive man.” For the record that is merely an observation. The band invited Dominick Leslie on mandolin and Mike Bennett on fiddle from The Deadly Gentlemen up before Travis sang us “Sunny Side Of The Mountain” by the King Of Bluegrass himself Mr. Jimmy Martin. Bennett and Leslie stayed for the set closing “Old Joe Clark.” which is either a traditional Appalachia folk tune or an instrumental homage to a tough but innovative principal.
The Infamous Stingdusters again showed their Red, White, Blue, and Yellow with their original “Road To Boulder.” Their version of the Grateful Dead’s “Jack-A-Roe” featured some of their most extended jams of the evening. Travis drove the bus on “I’ll Get Away.” “Heady Festy” was beautifully executed as was the segue into “In God’s Country.” “3×5” featured some impassioned vocals again from the bassist after which we were treated to a ripping version of Bill Emerson Jr.’ s “Home of the Red Fox.” “Try Try Try” was a quiet moment before the rowdy “Paypal Jamgrass.” Their original “Fire” is sung from the perspective of a smitten lover. The Dusters went into a bouncy version of The Band’s “Cripple Creek” “Echoes” featured some shredded violin from Garrett, and they again went to the Dead catalog to close with “He’s Gone.” They encored with the Flatt and Scruggs classic “Head Over Hills In Love With You.”
This was two nights of The Infamous Stringdusters doing what they do best; shredding strings and breaking hearts. The Sunday show had a much more relaxed vibe and even so I totally locked into the music being performed. The show was over just after midnight and as fans filtered out the ‘Cage’ was if anything a random side note to two nights of awesomeness.
Let me just clear the air, Cornmeal is alive and well and playing at a venue near you soon. Seriously, since the departure of long time fiddler Allie Kral fans have all but written off this once majestic centerpiece to the jamgrass scene. The fact of the matter is people grow and times change. I can say without a doubt this isn’t your mammy’s Cornmeal, but before you run away to a Hot Buttered Rum show take a minute and read on.
Long time Colorado jamgrass stalwart Whiskey Tango took the opening slot at Hodi’s Half Note. For a band who is almost a Denver institution they rarely seem to make it up to Northern Colorado, but maybe I’m not on the proper mailing list. Their set was an energetic romp bound to entice a few new fans to their flock.
Set 1; Annalisa, Brown Eyed> Space> Coal Creak Shakedown, Ear, Bull Dog, Galileo, Thicker, Loving Cup, Star Fucker, Betwixt, Wrong Way
(Great Whiskey Tango made me write Fucker.)
This band is very much like a nascent Cornmeal, but with a bit more of that dirty twang. The juxtaposition of their clean vocals add much to their overall authenticity. Whiskey Tango opened with an original “Annalisa” which was a high gear step on the gas. These guys are truly a product of their youth. They are a bluegrass filter that does not discriminate by genre. We were treated to grass versions of both The Beatles’ “Bull Dog” as well as the Rolling Stones’ “Loving Cup.” However the most poignant song was their original “Betwixt.’ They were a great fit, by the end of their set the room was filled in nicely.
Okay back to the matter at hand… Cornmeal. My love affair with this band began back with the original lineup at the second Summer Camp. I remember seeing them on what would become the Moonshine stage and saying, these guys can pick. Twelve years and one of the most dynamic female fiddlers in the scene later we find ourselves at the precipice of a new era for this highly venerated group. How can a band survive if three fifths of their members leave within a year? The answer is they can, but not without growing pains. Cornmeal is not stranger to transition. So before we get steeped in the past, let’s look at whom Chris Gangi and Wavy Dave brought on the road with them.
Backyard Tire Fire’s Scott Tipping has solidified his spot on lead guitar and vocals. In fact he seems to have blossomed since I last saw him at Summer Camp, but let’s hold back a second. Drew Littell joined the same time as Scott and seems to really be finding his footing in the group. The newest and perhaps most controversial addition is fiddle player Molly Healey. Ms. Healy is all business. These three may feel they need to tip toe, but the fact is we are all happy they are aboard and keeping this band touring. They opened with “Drinking Away.”
Set 1: Drinking Away, Coming Back Home, Feet On The Ground, Rain Your Light, All Things Must Change, That’s That, River Gap, Goodnight My Darling, Dear Prudence, The Road, Long Hard Road
The set list itself seems to be a declaration of sorts. The combination of “All Things Must Change” followed by “That’s That” is especially notable. The “River Gap” had me dancing. Dave and Chris know these songs by heart. So it’s interesting to see how Scott and Molly interpret them with their musical framing. They too played a little Beatles with a perfectly executed “Dear Prudence.” Their closing two songs too seemed to give a nod to the trials that lay ahead.
For a band that had been blasting across the country performing 100 plus shows for the better part of a decade it can be difficult to stop and rebuild. However that is exactly what they are doing. This will be the first time in twelve years that they don’t play at Summer Camp Music Festival. There is just too much history and although all of the personnel departed on good terms, the fan base has not fully healed. In my all my touring it’s hard to think of a group more dedicated than the Corn Stalkers, and with this reinvention, they too must evolve. The road ahead may in fact be long and hard for Cornmeal, but this band is no stranger to adversity. Time will tell how it all plays out. For now I’m just happy to see Cornmeal on the marquee.
The last time Old Shoe attempted to make it to Fort Collins, half the band got stranded at an airport and the other half played a few songs in a hotel lobby. This time was an absolute success in the sense that at least everyone made it to the gig. So on a Monday night in Fort Collins, Old Shoe made their triumphant return to the high desert plains. They are a recent addition to the Summer Camp family first playing at the festival in 2012. However their Chicago roots, strong attention to detail and their impressive musical interplay have quickly made them a crowd favorite at SCamp.
Up first was local group Hog MaGundy who has been making waves in the acoustic scene around Fort Collins. The room was as full as I’ve ever seen, meaning there were about thirty people scattered about the room. The audience seemed divided by allegiance with the MaGundy boys bringing a decent crowd to Avo’s. They had a nice full twang balanced by their drummer. They are essentially a jamgrass band but they describe themselves as good ol’ Colorado Slopgrass. That label was actually fairly appropriate. On the cusp of their one-year anniversary this emerging band will have the opportunity to play at Wakarusa this summer. Young Ben Hanrahan has a uniquely intricate picking style that became a focal point of their set, which went around an hour. They are a jug band on steroids with a solid understanding of the traditional. I’m glad I got the opportunity to see them live.
Old Shoe has quickly developed a fan base that stretches across the country. They are one part Dead, one part acoustic folk, and all dirty rock jam. Old Shoe has no problem bending genres to suit their needs as evident in the funky but solemn sounding “Ragweed Jones.”
Set 1: Ragweed Jones, On Your Way Down, Money In The Middle, Star, Family, Better Idea, Mystery Train, Loco Motive, High on the Mountain Top, Mouth of the Lion, Beer
Set 2: Day Rains Night, Got Me Down, Sand*, Drinkin’ Dark Whiskey*, How Mountain Girls Can Love*, Dust Bowl, Wouldstock, Let Yourself In, Kush
*w/ Garrett Burrow of Hog MaGundy on Banjo
Old Shoe went into a spot on rendition of Allen Toussaint’s “On Your Way Down.” Greg Fundis pounded out the beat nicely on “Money In The Middle” before the funky, Dead-esque “Star.” “Better Idea” was a dark psychedelic jam tune and “Mystery Train” (not to be confused with the song recorded by JGB, Elvis, and The Band) featured Joe Day possessed by the spirit of Pigpen” at the keys. Continuing with a short-lived theme they went into “Loco Motive” before breaking away to the perquisite “High on a Mountain Top.” Both tunes demonstrated the bands picking skills before they went all gospel on “Mouth of the Lion.” They closed their first set with a thirst-inducing “Beer”
This band combines decades of experience performing live. However there is an obvious influence from the Grateful Dead that seems to be present in not only their tone but also in their progressions. This is not to say they are unoriginal, if anything they are revitalizing a sound that has been stagnant for quite some time. This combined with their ability to surf across a multitude of musical genres and filter it all through a jam mentality is what makes this band a contender. Hence as their name denotes, Old Shoe’s music is comfortable without being overly nostalgic.
They opened with a deep and dark “Day and Night” that showcased some of the most interesting improvisation of the night. In fact during much of the second set Old Shoe pushed the songs into a more experimental direction. They continued with the bluesy “Got Me Down” before inviting Hog MaGundy’s Garrett Burrow on stage for a jaw-dropping banjo-tastic version of Phish’s “Sand.” I swear I heard some Theremin, but I can’t be sure.
“You Guys Like Whiskey?” – Old Shoe
They proceeded to give us “Drinkin’ Dark Whiskey,” which allowed Burrow to pick out a very nice solo with the Shoe. They kept him up for one more on the Stanley Brothers’ “How Many Mountain Girls Can Love” which is pretty much an anthem in these parts. “Dust Bowl” continued with the twang sans Burrow, but “Wouldstock” took on an almost lounge feel. “Let Yourself In” went transcendental. They opted to encore by simply asking the few remaining fans, “ You guys want one more.” They closed with a nod to Amendment 64 in the form of a sinister “Kush.” Old Shoe deserved to play to a larger audience, but that didn’t stop them from absolutely shredding for two full sets. They went on to play throughout the state and are on their way to building up a solid fan base in Colorado. I wish them luck and look for them to come back soon.
I have personally been harassing Floodwood’s management for the better part of the last two years to get them to come out to Colorado. Given Al’s predilection for skiing it’s kind of a no brainer. Ever since first seeing them at Summer Camp I have been smitten with their sound. Floodwood’s brand of punchy acoustic music anchored by two members of jam powerhouse moe is the perfect fit for any music fan. So finally it was announced that Floodwood would be embarking on their inaugural tour of Colorful Colorado. Their schedule included a short run into the mountains before two nights with Assembly Of Dust in Denver. Their first stop was a Tuesday night in Fort Collins. The evening began with local acoustic favorites, Gipsy Moon from Nederland.
Gipsy Moon is an utterly fun experience. Their music imparts an impression of a romanticized nomadic existence framed by the kind of strings that you would hear around a roaring campfire. Silas Herman son of famed bandleader Vince Herman takes the silent lead. He is quiet on stage by he simply shreds on the mandolin. Live Painter turned live musician; Mackenzie Page is another focal point from this young but impressive group. Their set lasted about an hour before they disappeared into the darkness behind the stage.
Al came out and gave us all a warm welcome before informing us that this was in fact Floodwood’s first time performing in the state. They opened with a tight but twangy original “In The Gravel Yard.”
Set 1: In The Gravel Yard, Revolving Door, You And Me, Spoon Kicks, I Know You Rider, Mother, Long Way To Virginia, Caught, Blue Eyed Son, Waiting In Vain, North Country Winds, 315, Nine Pound Hammer, Spend Some Time, Somewhere In Kansas, Chillicothe Clouds, Holy Sacred, Stomp It, Roll On, Waiting For The Punchline
Encore: Old Banjo, Cumberland Blues
Given the fact that it was a Tuesday and turnout was decent but only approaching half capacity, Floodwood opted to play one long set of music. This included several tracks off their new album including “North Country Winds” and a sublimely rowdy “Stomp It.”
“Every time I come to Colorado I can’t help but wonder why the fuck I don’t live here.” – Al
However the big news of the night was the release of their new live album This Is Live, which was available for purchase for the first time. Traditional bluegrass renditions of “Long Way To Virginia” and Merle Travis’s “9lb Hammer” took on a fresh feel while maintaining their nostalgic roots. We were treated to Al’s tribute to his autistic child “Blue Eyed Son,” which has become a regular on moe set lists as of late. Covers like Bob Marley’s “Waiting In Vain” and The Grateful Dead’s “I Know You Rider” were sprinkled in throughout the set for good measure. Nick Piccininni absolutely tore up his original instrumental “Chillicothe Clouds” which was a tune he wrote about his first experience at Summer Camp Music Festival.
“Pretty good for a Tuesday Night, pretty good for any night really.” – Nick
The audience was definitely comprised of a lot of moe fans that spent time yelling out silliness like, ‘Play Rebubula.’ Overall, the crowd was pretty attentive and definitely appreciated of the music. They closed with an amazing acoustic version of “Waiting For The Punchline.”
Floodwood returned for a two-song encore. First up was the bouncy “Old Banjo” followed by a bluegrass interpretation of the Grateful Dead’s “Cumberland Blues.” According to the setlist the last song was an audible. This was just a top-notch night of music from two of my new favorite bands. Gipsy Moon is definitely worth catching live whenever possible. Floodwood is an acoustic barnstormer that can’t help but impress music fans across this great country. I for one am thrilled that they finally made it out to Colorado. Let’s hope it’s the beginning of a new tradition for Floodwood.
When you go to as many concerts as I have it’s a relatively difficult to catch me off guard. As I entered Hodi’s Half Note on a cool fall evening in October I was welcomed by the warm embrace of bluegrass lofting over a silent crowd. Colorado is such an amazing hub for live music that many of the regular attendees become blasé and often chat during any given performance. So to enter a normally raucous bar and not hear anyone but the bartender asking, “What’ll you have” and the music from the stage is just something I don’t expect. As I headed toward the front to take a few photos it was immediately evident that this was not a Bisco crowd. The majority of the silent sold out audience were there to see the vibrant Mr. Snider, but they were treated to a powerful send up from the Henhouse Prowlers. This string band continues to teeter on the edge of traditional and rage-grass. Their set began around 8:45 PM as the early arrivers staked out their spots.
They opened with “Silver Eagle” and the game of shuffleboard began. Utilizing a traditional single microphone setup, every show is like a ballet as each member rearranges himself to the mic stand. In recent years, Henhouse Prowlers had to persevere through the theft of all of their band equipment as well as some personnel changes, and they have emerged more focused and cohesive than ever. Ben Wright continues to lead by example through effortless vocals and powerful picking. The newest member Starr Moss has really gelled with the band and doesn’t miss a chance to absolutely shred his guitar. Staples like “Track Song” and “Lonesome Road” dotted their hour-long set. The highlight was their closing Syracuse into Ruby into Syracuse that has become a showstopper for the Prowlers. The Henhouse Prowlers are one of those bands that is often overlooked and with a new album out and their relentless touring its time to spread to good word. If bluegrass is your bag the Prowlers should be in it.
The ever-vigilant crowd allowed themselves to murmur during the set break before Todd Snider appeared from backstage. Snider is like a modern day Dylan and I don’t make that analogy lightly. By appearance he’s all patchwork and floppy hat, but his lyrics belie a deeper spiritual journey. One in which he is not afraid to call out fraud or injustice with his own variety of realism and humor. I first saw Snider working with Leftover Salmon and subsequently Great American Taxi. However this was my first time seeing him in a small room with his dedicated fan base. He opened up with “Play A Train Song” and quickly went into “If Tomorrow Never Comes, a kind of rowdy rollercoaster ride that extrapolates on his Catholic School days. He treated us to his song “Broke;” a humorous indictment of the current economic situation told through the eyes of regular Joe. He did an amazing version of Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr. Bojangles” to round out the first set.
After a short break he returned and continued his bard-like ways. Snider is a storyteller, but that’s only if the audience cooperates. At one point he was ready to break into a tangential story when someone in the attentive audience shouted out. Snider reprimanded him by not telling the anecdote and simply launching into the next song. “Conservative Christian” was an absolute peak for the show, and it should be an anthem for any self-proclaimed hippie. Snider finished around midnight. He is a true teller of tales in every way. He entertains through his docile nature and cutting satire. The way to see Snider is by himself and hopefully with an audience as dedicated as the fans at Hodi’s. All in all it was a very good night for acoustic music.
Avogadro’s Number is a tiny oasis of live music in the sometimes-overwhelming Fort Collins music scene. This venue has been a showcase for acoustic and folk music for a number of years. Off the beaten path of Old Town Avo’s as it’s affectionately called houses a bar, a stage, and a restaurant.
On a cool fall night in October, Avogadro’s opened its stage up to Summer Camp favorites Caravan Of Thieves. Hailing from Connecticut this band had been described as a unique blend of swing, jazz, and high intensity jamming. Fuzz Sangiovanni from Deep Banana Blackout fame along with his wife Carrie Sangiovanni form the foundation of the band with Ben Dean and Brian Anderson filling out the lineup of pickers.
Arriving early I caught the last half of the opening set by The Cantrells. They are a duo from a bygone era with a true gift for the art of performance. The majority of the small but dedicated audience seemed to be there in support of opener. The multi-instrumentalist Cantrells focused on their own style of acoustic swing following a more traditional approach than the headliner. They had a folksy way about them that made you feel like you were at a picnic with your extended family. The only cover they played that I was familiar with was a Leadbelly tune. Overall they were a gentle way to get the night started. They had a passion for swing and string music and seemed to fit the bill nicely.
The Caravan Of Thieves took the stage for their single set that went just over ninety minutes. They opened up with their original “I Don’t Wanna.”
Set 1: I Don’t Wanna, Shim Sham, Psycho Killer, Eat You, Wasting, Monster, F Got You, She’s Learning, Kiss, Dance
Encore: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band> I Get By, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, When I’m 64, Raise The Dead
A very nice set of music with an encore that featured several of the Sgt. Pepper’s tunes they worked out for Halloween. We were also treated to a couple selections including “I Don’t Wanna” and “Monster” off of their new album Funhouse as well. This band is truly mesmerizing in both their delivery and their energy. Fuzz will often swing his guitar to his back, pick up egg beaters, and begin slamming on all manner of plastic jug and metal cymbal. I’ve seen the man even begin banging on his fellow band mates instruments with any substitute for a drumstick he can find.
They managed to work in one of their favorite covers in the form of the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” as well. They lead the small audience on a musical journey that involved some impeccable picking along with an array of makeshift percussion. Heading out to the bar throughout the night several people who were otherwise engaged in Broncos football would ask, “Who are these guys?” I can only assume that same question was asked by many who have passed by their stage at Summer Camp each year. Who are these guys? The reason is that their sound is wholly unique and quite intoxicating. They warned the crowd earlier about their Halloween extravaganza involving their homage to the Beatles, so it was no surprise that the encore gave us a taste of that forthcoming show. As they do with all of their covers, they incorporate their own instrumentation and styling making each song very different from the original. Their jangly strings treated the Beatles well.
The Caravan Of Thieves closed by coming down to the floor and inviting the crowd up to sing “Raise The Dead.” This intimate affair is exactly what Avo’s has become known for in Fort Collins. It’s a small retreat for music lovers and music makers alike. If you find yourself wandering the outskirts of Old Town and hear some quality picking, chances are you’ve found Avogadro’s Number.
Videos From The Show
On a tour that bounced on and off the summer festival circuit beginning with Summer Camp and ending with an extensive jaunt across the country, Tea Leaf Green continues to spread their music prodigiously. Their set at Summer Camp actually saw a lull in the rain this year, but it soon returned. Often underrated, this five-piece from San Francisco played sans one drummer at the Aggie. I headed down early to see local classics WhiteWater Ramble open. Having watched these guys evolve and transform since my arrival in Colorado it’s good to see them gelling in a live setting. WWR has always been a jamgrass contender, but at times their sound has been inconsistent. Their show at the Aggie was a smooth groove that was highlighted by a number of fun covers. In particular a spaced-out version of “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” that was a true mix of psychedelic and string. A pair of Grateful Dead covers came in the form of “Althea” and “The Wheel” as well. WhiteWater Ramble finished up with a sweet take on “Nellie Kane.” This band continues to develop and their local shows always seem to be a blast.
During setbreak I ran into incredible bassist and all around nice guy Reed Mathis just relaxing outside before his set. I talked to Reed about Summer Camp and his extensive touring. Throughout the last 5 months he has hopped from Tea Leaf to Mickey Hart Band shows with several one offs in between. Before we split ways Reed inquired if I had any requests. I simply asked that he, ‘rip it up.’
“I will rip it up, it shall need mending… possibly stitches.” –Mathis
So with that we headed back inside in anticipation of the ripping. The show was on a Wednesday night so the audience numbered only around a couple hundred. This allowed for a very relaxed feel and easy maneuvering. They opted to play one long set rather than split it up. They opened up with “If It Wasn’t For The Money.”
Set 1: If It Wasn’t For The Money, Someday (In The Wake), Penny Saved, One Reason, Space Hero Pt. 3, Space, Hero Pt. 4, Forgiven, Don’t Go, Taught To Be Proud, We Aren’t Done, Franz Hanzerbeak (JoJo), Two Parts, One More Chance, Fallen Angel> Germanating Seed
Encore: Pretty Jane, All Washed Up
This beefy set from Tea Leaf Green featured classics as well as several newer tracks. Musically they are playing in lockstep. I was a little bummed they were performing without their other drummer, but considering their length of time on the road it’s understandable. Trevor Gerrod continues to be the consummate performer utilizing both his skills at the keys as well as the microphone intrepidly. The “Space Hero” duo was a real highlight. Reed was a true focal point for the duration of the show. There is something incredible about watching someone who is truly skilled at a craft. For Mathis that craft is face melting bass shredding. Tea Leaf closed out the set with a pair from their second album Radio Tragedy!; “Fallen Angel” into “Germanating Seed” was a real treat. I still believe that Tea Leaf Green is a top-level jam band with the potential to give a huge performance on any given night. Their show at the Aggie again proved that hypothesis. They have musically and stylistically evolved into a true road-worn rock band, but their live shows demonstrate an amazing ability to improvise and harmonize sonically. They encored with a “Pretty Jane” into “All Washed Up.” If you’ve let Tea Leaf Green fall off your radar, revisit them post haste. They are still doing it right.
The Werks have played their fair share of sets at Summer Camp. However this was my first time catching them live. So I hustled down to see them in Old Town. Howerver arriving at 9:30 PM meant that by the time I grabbed my first beer, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong were exiting stage left. What I heard sounded like a promising blend of electronic, funk, and jam. Forming in 2009 and averaging over a hundred shows a year this four piece has a lot of potential. In fact all three bands on the bill were four man outfits that have developed their own brand of improvised composition. Some have pontificated that we are in a post jam era where the music has become split by genre and focus. However when I witness performances like what I saw from both Twiddle and The Werks, my faith is jam is somewhat restored.
Now Twiddle has not performed at Summer Camp, but they would be a fine additon to next year’s lineup. The band came on after a short set break and kept the night moving smoothly. It was homecoming weekend at Colorado State and there was an abundance of youth in attendance. It seemed like Twiddle had gained a few fans from their performance at Arise Music & Arts Festival in Loveland, CO mid August. They are an impressive unit who finally seems to really be branching out beyond their Vermont roots. Much of the basis of their music comes from the school that Phish built. Beyond that they have a drive and musical prowess that absolutely makes an impact. Deep intrepid jams highlighted this set that culminated with a huge psychedelic style trance jam. As this is just my second time seeing them I am still unfamiliar with their songs. What I can say is that Twiddle can play, and they have a genuine enthusiasm about performing together. Their set at the Aggie seemed to end far too quickly.
Again after a short set change The Werks emerged for their extended headlining slot. They opened with “O.G.”
Set 1: O.G., Heading South, Light, BG, Duck Farm, Hard To Find, Moetry, G Funk, 2001> No Diggity> 2001
Encore: Killing In The Name Of
I’m unsure how many can relate but at times with different bands no matter how hard I try I just can’t seem to make seeing them life happen. The Werks has been one of those bands for me. I have listened to their recordings for a number of years but despite my best efforts failed to see them play live. That is until now. The Werks began performing together in 2004 and released their first album in 2007. Since then they have been touring across the country with several stops at top festivals like All Good and Wakarusa. They currently host their own yearly event called The Werk Out Music Festival. Their show at the Aggie much like their opener Twiddle was first-rate.
They started the show by delving into a wide variety of their catalog. Slicing through musical styles like instrumental ninjas The Werks demonstrated why they are so revered. Songs like “Duck Farm” and “Moetry” punctuated a fantastic set of songs. . They closed with their version of Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” split by a bridge in the form of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” The crowd went absolutely nuts. However The Werks came back to the stage to drop an even heavier encore. They covered Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of.” Stoic keyboardist Norman Dimitrouleas took the microphone for this spot on rendition that left fans mesmerized. I have to say it was a fun night out. With a bill that consisted of names like The Werks and Twiddle it would be easy to overlook this Friday night but that would have been a mistake. One I’m thankful I didn’t make. Both of these bands deserver your attention, so take a deeper look. Apparently in some corners of the country jam is alive and well.
Virtuoso bassist Les Claypool is a musical shape shifter. He often leaves the comfy confines of Primus to venture out on some melodious adventure. I’ve seen his many projects and they vary from full-fledged percussive groups focused on instrumental composition to an assemblage of a reptilian task force for all sorts of mayhem. His most recent project is a stripped down situation that goes by the name of Duo De Twang. He has had a number of solo sets over the years at Summer Camp and most recently played with all of Primus in 2012.
Duo De Twang was originally formed with Marc Haggard from San Francisco alt-rock group M.I.R.V. This tour featured Bryan Kehoe on guitar also from M.I.R.V. They invited the Reformed Whores on the road with them for the duration of their tour. These two ladies have no issue discussing all manner of bodily function and otherwise unspeakable points of view through the wonder and beauty of song. In fact if you weren’t paying attention to the lyrics it would easily sound like the background music at a church picnic.
As I arrived the Reformed Whores were already on stage spreading their brand of irreverent humor. Their delivery was pure deadpan and chocked full of a humorous sanguinity. As performers they utilized the bare minimum of instrumentation, with just a ukulele and an accordion the Reformed Whores weave rich and delightful musical tapestries. Singing about the necessity for women to move their bowels, taint waxing, and about the importance of birth control are all par for the course. Really they sing public service announcements. They closed their set with “Girls Poop Too.”
I can only describe the fans in the front few rows as dedicated. Some were parked there hours prior to the start of the opener. It was finally time for the main event. Claypool and Kehoe officially took the stage soon after the Reformed Whores. Their modest setup was complete with a small electric bonfire and a couple of chairs. Claypool had stated that this was going to be a low-key affair with lots of booze laced tangents and random stories for the eager crowd. Claypool is playing on a resonator bass that he has taken to calling the “dobro bass,” which makes sense in both sound and feel. Kehoe stuck to the guitar alternating between slide and flat-picking. They played one long set that was spiced with a good amount of fan interaction. They opened with a truly twang-y “Booneville Stomp.” After their first song Kehoe let out a note like a Tuvan throat singer and Claypool said this about him.
“We call him the mighty throat of doom and sodomy.” –Les Claypool
It was this type of silly banter that Claypool seemed to thrive on between sips and songs at the Aggie. Classic Primus tunes like “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” and “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver” dotted the set to the glee of the audience. By this point the room was borderline sold out with people taking up every nook and cranny. I found myself in the back and to the right along the wall after I was done taking photos. Musically it was just fun. It was like watching Claypool on MTV Unplugged. At one point the audience began chanting ‘Primus Sucks’ and Claypool commented, “I didn’t think there were be a lot of Primus fans here tonight.” Towards the end Claypool invited a local guitarist named Robert up to stage to play with the Duo De Twang. First of all that’s awesome, Claypool inviting any musician onstage to perform with him would undoubtedly be a high point in their life. Robert was no Jimi Hendrix, but he did fine and Claypool used a few stops to play the bandleader and crack a few jokes. So it was okay for the crowd, but obviously awesome for Robert. After a very quick ninety minutes their set was over and they both stepped off the stage before quickly returning for their encore. They nailed a stringed version of “Staying Alive” that seemed to really pump up the energy in the crowd.
“That’s not a Bee Gees song, I wrote that fucking tune.” –Les Claypool
They closed the show with Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues” that featured a small “Tommy The Cat” tease. This was just a great night to have a drink with Mr. Claypool. The relaxed vibe focused on interaction and imbibing more than shredding and face melting. That’s not to say anything was lacking musically. Quite the contrary, the combination of Claypool and Kehoe is magical. They create a wall of sound with just a handful of strings. I would highly recommend if the Duo De Twang comes to your town, go have a drink with the Colonel.
Everyone Orchestra travels the country bringing one-time only musical experiences to the masses. They are a tradition at Summer Camp as part of the Make A Difference events at Summer Camp. If you don’t know what that is, look in your program and get involved. or check here.
From the mind of Matt Butler lineups are assembled and during his shows he creates themes and tangents for the band to follow. Everyone Orchestra scheduled a three-night romp through Colorado that included stops in Gunnison as well as Denver, but they began with a night at Hodi’s Half Note in Fort Collins. The lineup was made up of Matt Butler conducting, Dave Watts on drums, Steve Kimock on guitar, Anders Beck on dobro, Jans Ingber on percussion and vocals, Kai Eckhardt on bass, and for one night only Bridget Law on violin. This power packed group was certainly enough to create an amazing musical experience, but first up was Marcellus Wallace.
Marcellus Wallace is a soul, funk, rock, adventure lead by singer Devon Parker of The Nu Classics. They came out strong mesmerizing the crowd with their blend of brass and soulfunk. It was almost a throw back to an earlier R&B sound, with more than one attendee asking, “What does Marcellus Wallace look like?” With originals like “Lover” their vibe is certainly intriguing if not infectious. The highlight of the show was a sit-in by Jans Ingber on John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy.” If you dig a retro sound foul of soulful nuance I would recommend checking out Marcellus Wallace and finding out what he looks like for yourself.
Everyone Orchestra took us on a two set journey through rock, jam, jazz, folk, and a little bit of bluegrass thrown in for good measure. With Bridget Law only hopping on for one show of the run she was truly a featured artist. With his small dry erase board Butler wrote down things like “Ya” and “4/4 Rock Beat” during which he took to some improv on the microphone. The first set went quick going just over an hour, but the second set was a 90-minute jam that went almost to bar close. The crowd at Hodi’s again was light making for easy maneuvering but a little disappointment on my part. As I stated in my review from the week prior of Euforquestra, this is a funny time for venues in college towns. The kids are taking finals, graduating, packing up, and moving out. This makes for somewhat spotty attendance for any show. If Everyone Orchestra had scheduled this performance a month ago, I have no doubt that it would have sold out. Jans Ingber alternated between singing a few tunes and ripping it up on the congas. One of the jams featured Kai Eckhardt who I have not had the pleasure of seeing live since his days with Garage Mahal. He is as agile on the bass as ever and his harmonious notes were truly a pleasure. Kimock was great without overpowering the lineup. I’ve seen him with EO before and he honestly knows how to perform in a group dynamic. This night was no exception. Everyone Orchestra is always a treat and if you are truly a fan of the jam they are worth any amount of effort to catch them live. Butler never disappoints when choosing a lineup and they are always unique. With their upcoming show for Make a Difference at Summer Camp it might have been easy to let this one slide by, but I’m so glad I didn’t.